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Friday 21st March 2003


I’ve reached the end of the whooping period and I am back into mt settled routine. It seems to me it’s got more settled since I won the award. It’s a very odd sensation to know that I’ll have a wage in two years time. I feel calm and purposeful! How long will this last, I wonder? I am just finishing my short plays for Women’s Hour, and we record them at the beginning of April in Manchester. I am looking forward to being in those studios again and working with the producer Sue Roberts, who is fantastic. Then, when those are done I must concentrate on the new book, which at this point is full of delightful possibilities, and is of course, staggeringly brilliant..ha ha.

Lately I’ve been asked to make all kinds of comments about books in the press…my top ten North Books…under rated and over rated books….books that leave me cold…and ones that I would take to a desert island. It’s very difficult to choose ones favourites….for one thing it changes all the time. I agonised over the top ten, as there are so many writers here in the North East..if you pick up a stone they all scuttle out. I am always discovering work I enjoy, or else suddenly understanding work that I hadn’t connected with before. And if I don’t like a book then I usually give up and stop reading it, so how can you criticise something you haven’t read properly?

I am reading Ann Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist at the moment. Actually, when I got back from South Africa I felt a bit stuck, and couldn’t think what to read next. I ploughed through Mandela’s autobiography which he wrote on Robben Island. For seven years he wasn’t allowed a pen! Still, he got to end of it. It was interesting to read the book so soon after visiting the prison, though it feels quite formal as a book…like he is, I suppose.

After I finished it, I couldn’t think what to read next. I hate that with reading…when you suddenly find yourself in a cul de sac. You know there are a million fantastic books waiting to be read, but you can’t find the right one. My solution to this problem is to return to something classic. Tyler’s novel are more or less perfect as far as I’m concerned.

If anyone out there is reading this please recommend a novel for me to read next. Tell me why it’s good! I don’t like violence, too much small descriptive print, too many facts, or books that set out to be funny. I love novels that take me to a new landscape…books like Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier) and Postcards (Annie Proulx) Under The Skin (Michael Faber) and books that introduce me to characters who I would never meet in the normal run of things.

It’s a beautiful Spring Day. Everything would be fine if they weren’t dropping bombs on Bagdad. My daughters are very politically active in the anti war campaign, and they are shocked that the war still goes ahead despite all their protests. I think the new generation will be shaped by these awful events. I was thinking about those caves where Bin Laden might still be hanging out…perhaps Saddam will end up there…perhaps all the baddies will end up living underground, bumping into each other at night. Also, someone said the other night, Tony Blair looks more and more like a wolf.